Talking About Trucking – What Business Leaders Should Know

Talking About Trucking – What Business Leaders Should Know

The Hoosier trucking and transportation industry affects virtually every single business in the state, and right now it’s undergoing a great period of change and innovation. There’s a lot going on that business leaders need to know, so Building Indiana reached out to the experts to learn all we could.

Robert Haag, President, Perfect Transportation, LLC, First Vice Chair, Indiana Motor Truck Association.

Robert Haag, president of Perfect Transportation, LLC and first vice chair of the Indiana Motor Truck Association (IMTA), provided his insights into some of the biggest topics happening in today’s trucking world.


Building Indiana (BIN): What should business leaders know about the state of Indiana trucking in 2022 and the ways it affects their companies?

Robert Haag (President, Perfect Transportation, LLC, and First Vice Chair, IMTA): Motor carriers across Indiana have been impacted just as hard as any other business across the state when it comes to the pandemic and post-pandemic economy. Rollercoaster freight demands, rocketing fuel costs, healthcare concerns, insurance renewals, maintaining regulatory and safety standards, along with the obvious labor issues, have made what traditionally has been a tight-margin industry even tighter. From Indiana’s largest factories to the home-office, if you bought something, it’s more than likely a truck touched it at some point inside our state’s borders.

In the past, it may have been easy to take motor carriers and trucking in general for granted. But now more people realize the key role that trucking plays in keeping communities supplied and stocked with critical goods.


BIN: After all the supply chain challenges from the last two years, what innovations have stood out as the most effective for business in our state?

Haag: Politics and controversy aside, it’s obvious to me that the impact of an effective COVID vaccine has been instrumental to trucking’s success. When our country went into lockdown in March of 2020, we saw quite the bifurcation of our industry’s measurement of profitability. Those who were hauling PPE, toilet paper, groceries, and essentials did very well, while those in building supplies, chemicals, auto parts, and general commodities found their freight come to an abrupt halt. As a viable COVID vaccine began to roll out, we saw consumer confidence come back. We saw building permits issued, we saw people get into their cars to drive to work, drive the kids to school, and drive consumer spending. The ability for most businesses in our state to survive, which includes trucking, was the rollback and confidence to return to some sense of normalcy.


BIN: With so much competition for labor across all industries, what is the trucking sector doing to market itself as an attractive place to work?

Haag: Labor related issues are the number one problem affecting trucking in 2021 and 2022. It’s not just a shortage of drivers, we also have a shortage of diesel mechanics, dock/forklift operators, and even general back-office staff. We find ourselves, just like most industries, in an arms-race of sorts to come up with more obscure outside the box ideas to attract and retain good, qualified talent.

We’ve found that while money is important, the pandemic has put a real focus on quality of life and work/family balance issues with employees. In regard to our professional drivers, we’ve been looking at not only pay raises, but additional vacation pay, increasing driver referral bonuses, investing in newer equipment with benefits of in-cab safety technology, comfort, and efficiency.

As with our office staff, we have made efforts to understand and listen when it comes to the balancing of work and family. We continue to make investments in technology that further enables and enhances the ability of our employees to work from places other than just their office chair. As a small business, we’ve learned to be nimble and adapt.


BIN: Besides labor, what are some of the top issues that Hoosier trucking firms are working on this year?

Haag: I think we can put projects into two buckets in 2022: continued innovation and regaining productivity. Over the past two years, the supply chain has lost so much of its previous efficiency. The gears of our economy before were well-oiled. The pandemic threw a handful of sand in those gears, damaging, slowing down, and in some cases stopping them from turning. This year, we must rethink, reset, and become creative in the ways we get our mojo back. Five to ten years of efficiency seems to have been erased. If labor isn’t the answer, it’s possible we may need to further invest in automation of all aspects of trucking and back office.

Continued innovation in trucking technology will have a positive impact on safety and remove some of the barriers for new entrants into the industry. Sooner than later, the driver-assist technologies will be dominating the over-the-road fleets. Automated trucks are coming, it’s just a matter of the social timeline. Advanced technology in trucking also means investments in alternative fuels such as natural gas, hydrogen, and electricity. Indiana will continue to be a leader as we continue to invest in our infrastructure looking at next generation road building, power generation, and power transmission.


BIN: What types of developments would Indiana trucking firms need to accelerate the industry’s transition to newer advanced technologies? (Cleaner energy, automation, etc.).

Haag: Simply stated, Indiana’s power grid cannot provide enough power to support the type of electrification that is required for an industry like the Trucking industry. We need to make substantial investments in power generation and power transmission. This power transmission isn’t just to the substation, but all the way down to local terminals and truck stops on-highway.

Regarding automation, Indiana has made substantial investments and been on the leading edge of investing in improving existing roads and bridges as well as building new infrastructure. Because of our industry support and advocacy, Indiana was a leader in raising their state fuel tax before it reached a crisis level. Software engineers that are building tomorrow’s automation must do so with today’s infrastructure in mind. We do not need dedicated truck lanes or fiber optics imbedded in our roadways. What we do need is, truck parking capacity at freight-critical locations, smooth clean roads that are built to withstand truck traffic, the continued focus of better freight mobility, new coats of paint, and easy to read clear signage. Today’s continued commitments to road funding will further enhance tomorrow’s prospect for on-road automation.


Top 10 Indiana Trucking Industry Issues

  1. Driver Shortage
  2. Driver Retention
  3. Economy
  4. Driver Distraction
  5. Driver Compensation
  6. Lawsuit Abuse Reform
  7. Truck Parking
  8. Hours-of-Service
  9. Transportation Infrastructure, Congestion, and Funding
  10. Diesel Technician Shortage

Source: American Transportation Research Institute Top Industry Issues 2021

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